The Penny Black Blog

Runs with Scissors


Hello, again! I hope I don’t disappoint too many of you if there is no running involved in today’s Run with Scissors. “Barely moving with scissors” is more like it today. I’ve been back from Minneapolis for a few days but it will take a little longer before I am running at full speed.

My fatigue is the result of keeping up with two toddler grandchildren as well as walking up and down the three flights of stairs to my daughter’s condo. It is worth every weary cell in my body to have made the memories we did during this visit. I will have photos and stories next week. Grandma needs time to sort and organize.

Enough chit chat. Since there is very little time left to make and send Christmas cards, I have kept today’s cards easy peasy: quick and easy to make so you have time to put them in an envelope and send them on their way.

This is the last of the alcohol ink backgrounds, and I saved it for the Ornament Tree and the Merry Christmas sentiment. It has been helpful to have backgrounds made up ahead when time is running short. I may even be running out of my supply of gold cardstock. I hope it all comes out even by Christmas.

Previously, I stamped this Amaryllis stamp using silver ink on black cardstock and loved the effect. Because my plan for this post was to demonstrate “quick and easy”, I tried stamping the Amaryllis with Versamark and embossing in gold. That beautiful stamp did not disappoint!

The gold embossing powder was on the desk and I wanted to emboss another Christmas image in gold. I chose the wreath from the Festive Season set along with the sentiment from the Peace and Love set. I layered the cardstock using the Antique Frame die set. Every wreath needs a bow and so I added one to the card. Easy peasy and elegant.

My Friend Gretchen

I am fortunate to have a friend named Gretchen who has been a blessing in my life. My first encounter with Gretchen was when I received an eviction notice from her father. Great way to start a friendship, huh?

When my children were very young, we bought a business and moved to a small community outside of Madison, Wisconsin.   We were lucky enough after a long search to find one of those big old homes to rent that you often see in small towns, two stories and four bedrooms. It was perfect for us.

I repainted the rooms, we had a new kitchen floor installed, put down room sized rugs, hung drapes and settled in. We loved the house. After worrying for so long about finding a place to live, this was heavenly.

The eviction letter arrived before we had lived there a year. I was home alone when I read it and the strength just left my knees and I had to sit down. It seems our landlord had a married daughter, Gretchen, who had been living with her family in a different state and had recently made the decision to return home. Our landlord wanted to offer his daughter the home we were living in. We had one month to move out.

One months’ notice does not give you much time to cry. By this time our business was doing fine and we were able to buy our own big old house to live in.

Life went on and my next encounter with Gretchen was after Mr. RWS and I were married and participated in a Marriage Encounter Weekend. Gretchen and her husband were also attending. Somehow during the course of the weekend, Gretchen and I realized how we were connected. She shared that she always felt badly about our having to move and I assured her that it all worked out for the best as we had bought a home.

It wasn’t long before Gretchen and her husband and Mr. RWS and I were asked to be part of a team that led Marriage Encounter weekends. We got to know each other very well, laughing and crying together, sharing our stories with other married couples.

Gradually, our lives didn’t intersect much but the friendship with Steve and Gretchen was one of those that you pick up where you left off when you do get together.

On the day we moved from the house where I raised my kids, it was Gretchen who interrupted my painful farewell tour of the house and took crying me by the hand and drove me to the new house while the guys wrangled with the furniture.

A few years ago, Gretchen and Steve stopped to see us on their way home from wintering in Florida. Steve had been diagnosed with an illness that gave him a five year life expectancy. It was hard to believe this big, tall, blue eyed Irishman, younger than us, would ever die, much less in five years.

Sometimes five years seems like forever, but sometimes it just isn’t long enough. Steve didn’t even get his five years. Two years later he died while on a hunting trip to South Dakota. Gretchen, who has a phobia of driving on interstates and will only make left turns at a stop light, drove herself from Wisconsin to South Dakota in time to be with Steve for a few days before he died. Then that brave woman drove home with Steve’s ashes next to her on the front seat, chatting with him all the way.

My heart broke for her. Gretchen was the one I looked to for sound, loving, practical advice about handling life’s challenges. She wasn’t much for self pity. Gretchen had a way of maintaining her calm and there always seemed an aura of peace about her. When they visited us, we would leave the guys to watch football and we would sit at the patio table sharing stories, listening to each other and occasionally swapping advice.

Living so far away, there wasn’t that much I could do but I ached for my friend and wanted her to know I would be around as she got through this life event.

It’s been two years now. Gretchen made it through that year of “firsts” and now the second year is behind her. Gretchen shared her journey with me: what she was feeling, how she was managing, what she did to reinvent herself now that Steve was gone. She tackled remodeling projects some days and some days took to the couch with wine and chocolates. My only advice: do what helps you get through the day.

I sent a few gifts, flowers once, and lots and lots of emails and cards. I felt so helpless and could do so little.

Gretchen expressed thanks that she had me to send those emails to. She could be crabby, sad, angry, hopeful, worried, and sometimes happy. She didn’t burden her kids or nearby friends. My email address was a safe place to send her feelings and worries. On my end, I mostly listened and encouraged. I gave her permission to just feel her feelings (something we learned in Marriage Encounter) and get through her days any way she could. We were able to stop by and visit her two summers ago and it was good to hug her and know she was in one piece and coping.

Gretchen has been appreciative of my encouragement and willingness to be part of her journey. She compliments me on my card making! Well, yesterday that card you see in the photo arrived. There is a beautiful message inside but seeing the homemade card said more than words. We were speaking the same language.

Grief journeys never end. They just become a little less painful as time passes and you adapt to the new normal. I can’t say Gretchen is “done” grieving. But I can say she is succeeding at reinventing Gretchen without Steve. I can imagine Steve looking down at her with that darned Irish twinkle in those very blue eyes saying, “Good going, Gretch!”

I’ve learned a lot about friendship because of the woman brave enough to share her painful moments with me. I learned I needn’t do anything more than keeping in touch and being an email address that was always available. Never ever underestimate the value of the homemade cards you send. They are more than cardstock and ink. A piece of your heart goes with them, love falls out when they are opened, and they are proudly displayed as a reminder that someone is thinking about and loving you.

Little Hedgy is doing some star gazing, perhaps looking for Santa. I used the Hedgy Joy mini set and the Hedgy Joy Cut Out die set along with a sentiment from the Greetings die set. I think Hedgy is on his way to a Christmas party and just stopped for a moment to experience the wonder of it all.

Speaking of star gazing … Polar Bear and Penguin, the Star Gazing Friends, decided to take in the celestial beauty, too. This is simple silver embossing on navy cardstock, again using the Antique Frame for mounting. Heat embossing may be “simple” but it only works if you carefully prepare your cardstock in order to prevent stray flecks of powder from sticking where it is not welcomed. Ask me how I know!

Cooper is due for grooming next week. He refused to pose while looking so shaggy. So here’s another photo of Cooper with his favorite person, Mr. RWS, at his favorite place: the banks of the Tennessee River.

I thought when I sat down to write I would do a Reader’s Digest version of some sort of story, and then Gretchen’s card arrived and that was the story I had to tell. So I will do a condensed version of my goodbye and tell you I am off to the Penny Circle Flickr Gallery to enjoy the cards you post there. See you next Saturday with my running shoes on.


Shop for today’s featured Penny Black supplies

Card No. 1: 51-248 Merry Christmas, 51-364 Ornament Tree

Card No. 2: 30-450 Peaceful Winter, 40-577 Amaryllis

Card No. 3: 30-438 Peace and Love, 30-442 Festive Season, 51-397 Antique Frame

Card No. 4: 30-447 Hedgy Joy, 51-174 Greetings, 51-389 Hedgy Joy Cut Out, 80-017 Festive and Frosty

Card No. 5: 30-445 To All, 30-451 Star Gazing Friends